'Lil Pump' delivers hype despite a lack of substance
Lil Pump is neither meaningful nor innovative. It has no message or theme, and Lil Pump very clearly has nothing of substance to say — but if you are listening to Lil Pump expecting something meaningful, you are listening to Lil Pump for the wrong reason.
17-year-old Lil Pump emerged out of Miami, a member of the South Florida wave that includes rappers such as xxxtentacion, $ki Mask the Slump God and wifisfuneral. These artists have in common varying degrees of manic-depressive tendencies, hedonistic worldviews, disregard for convention and raw energy. Lil Pump tends toward the latter three, his lyrical themes never delving beyond the debaucherous. He first gained fame on Soundcloud with the single “D Rose,” accompanied by a fantastic music video shot by visual artist Cole Bennett (whose videos are a veritable who’s who of up-and-coming rappers). Follow-up releases “Boss” and “Gucci Gang” helped propel him to further viral fame, half of which stemmed from an appreciation (more often than not ironic) of his wild and rowdy aesthetic, while the other half stemmed from unbridled hatred of everything about him.
Lil Pump is certainly a controversial figure. Many feel that he is furthering the devolution of rap music with his shallow lyricism; others appreciate the mindless hype. He has become something of a running joke on the internet due to his songs and persona at times feeling like an astute parody of Soundcloud-rap culture.
No matter if you love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Lil Pump goes hard. Every song is as intense as the last — Lil Pump does not take breaks. South Florida rapper and frequent collaborator, Smokepurpp, has repeatedly described the music of Florida as “ignorant,” and Lil Pump certainly fits this description. The instrumentation is dominated by chilly dissonant bells and piano floating on top of bass that sounds like the producer turned the volume to eleven. This blown-out style is characteristic of producer Ronny J, a big influence on the South Florida sound, responsible for hard-hitting tracks such as “Ultimate” by Denzel Curry and “Gospel” by Rich Chigga. Ronny J is credited on three tracks across the album, sharing production with an assortment of lesser-known producers such as Mr. 2-17 and Bighead. 808 Mafia member TM88 is responsible for the eerie “Foreign,” one of the album’s highlights. The beats are often poorly mixed and cheap, but always fun and energetic. Joining Lil Pump are an assortment of big ticket rappers, most notably a cosign from fellow Miami rapper Rick Ross. The songs featuring these artists are the high points of the album (not including the singles) as they tend to actually be properly mixed, and the features provide some respite from Lil Pump’s rather repetitive nature. With that being said, the featuring artists never steal the show — Lil Pump does a surprisingly good job of holding his own, and you never forget that you’re listening to his album.
Lil Pump has major faults — while Lil Pump does not intend to convey much meaning through his songs, his lyrics are still impressively bad. No matter how much unruly charisma Lil Pump possesses, there are only so many times he can repeat the phrase “Gucci Gang” before it gets boring. It is possible, as Lil Pump’s guests remind us, to make a song go hard without the lyrics beginning to feel like some sort of sacrilegious, barred-out mantra. The repetitiveness is at least tempered by some surreal bars: Across the span of the album Lil Pump turns down Harvard, sells cocaine to your grandma and has a stroke — not necessarily in that order. While it’s likely Lil Pump’s intention to embrace the lo-fi aesthetic dominating Soundcloud rap now, most of the tracks on this album sound like ersatz Ronny J beats, often terribly mixed (looking at you, “Boss”). This combination of mind-numbingly stupid bars and often chintzy beats becomes increasingly more difficult to stomach as the album grinds on, and it doesn’t help that Lil Pump spends the whole time reminding the listener that he has had sex with seemingly every member of your extended family.
If you want to turn your brain off and feel the pure hype of Lil Pump course through your veins, listening to Lil Pump is a good move. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you’re going to really hate this album.
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Warner Bros Records